Archive for the ‘Demetri Martin’ Category

fivedials_no26SOUNDTRACK: BOB DYLAN-Christmas in the Heart (2009).

220px-Bob_Dylan_-_Christmas_in_the_HeartI have been a dabbler in Dylan over the years.  I like his hits, I like some of his albums, but I’ve never been a huge huge fan.  So the biggest surprise to me was that Bob Dylan now sounds like Tom Waits.  His voice is so crazily gravelly, it’s almost (almost) unrecognizable as Dylan.

That said, on some of the tracks it works very well–like he’s had too much to drink and is enjoying the revelry of these traditional songs.  I imagine him as a benevolent uncle trying to get the family to sing along.  And sing along they do.  He has a group of backing singers who sound like they are straight out of the forties and fifties (on some songs the women sing incredibly high especially compared to Dylan’s growl).  I’m not always sure it works, but when it does it’s quite something.

The first three songs are a lot of fun. However, when he gets to “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” it really sounds like he has hurt himself.  He seems to really strain on some of those notes–note the way he pronounces “herald” (heeerald).

The more secular songs fare better with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” sounding especially Waitsian and being all the better for it.  Although I feel that perhaps he made up some lyrics–“presents on the tree?”  It’s interesting that in “O Come, All Ye Faithful” he sings the first verse in Latin (I don’t know that I’ve heard any other pop singers do that) and it works quite well.

A less successful song is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” in which the music just seems to be too slow for him.  His verses end early and it seems like the backing singers are just out in the middle of nowhere.  Perhaps the best song is “Must Be Santa.”  I love this arrangement (by Brave Combo) and Dylan has a ton of fun with it (and the video is weirdly wonderful too).

“Christmas Blues” is a bit of a downer (as the title might suggest).  I’d never heard this song before and Dylan is well suited to it.  Dylan’s version of “The Little Drummer Boy” is also very good–he croons gently and his voice sounds really good.  I was surprised to hear him do “Christmas Island,” a song I have come to love this year–his version is quite fun as well, with the backing singer doing Aloha-ays.

Finally, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” is pitched a wee bit high for him (and the Waits voice is more scary than avuncular here).

So overall it’s a weird collection (to say nothing of the artwork–both the cover and the inside cover), but I think it’s well suited to the day after the festivities.

[READ: December 15, 2013] Five Dials #26

I was shocked to realize who many Five Dials issued I had put off reading (and that this one came out over a year ago!).  I knew 26 was a large issue, so I put it off.  And then put it off.  And then put it off, until Issue 29 came out.  (I read 29 before this one, which got me to jump back and tackle this large one).

I have to admit I did not enjoy this one as much as previous Five Dials.  The bulk of the issue was taken up with German short stories, and I don’t know if it was the choices of the editors, but (a few) of the stories just didn’t grab me at all.  Having said that, there were one or two that I thought were very good.  But with this being such a large issue, perhaps it deserved to be spaced out a little better–Weltanschauung fatigue, no doubt.

This issue starts with Letters from Our Glorious readers and other sources.
I feel like this is a new feature for Five Dials (although again, it has been a while).  There is applause for the Bears (From Issue #24) and the acknowledgement of Zsuzsi Gartner’s first adoptees of her story ideas (Issue #25 Pt 1).  There’s also the amusing story of a guy who got nailed at work for printing the color issue (something I used to do at my old job as well) and a refraining of answering spam.

CRAIG TAYLOR-On Ewen and German
Taylor doesn’t say much in this intro, since the “heavy lifting” is done by Anna Kelly.  He does mention Paul Ewen (and his food writing) and the first Five Dials questionnaire (which I assume it is too late (and too far away) for me to submit for that free HH book).

She explains about wanting to know secrets, and how when she was little, learning Pig Latin was a such a huge boon to her secretive life.  Then her sister started studying German, and Anna herself was hooked.  She says that reading German works in German is like flying.  And she wants to share German language writers with us.  Of course, we won’t be reading them in German, so there will be no flying.  (more…)

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ATTENDED: WEIRD AL YANKOVIC-Live at the State Theater, New Brunswick, NJ May 19, 2011 (2011).

I’ve seen “Weird Al” live three times now and I have never been disappointed by the show.  The first year my friend Matt and I waited out by the bus and got the bands’ (minus Al’s) autograph.  The second time we waited even longer and Al had an autograph (and picture taking) session in the theater after the show (how cool is that?).

This year, Sarah and I didn’t wait around afterwards (kids at home) but the show was still great.  Al made a joke after the first song thanking his opening act, Technical Difficulties. (There were indeed 45 minutes of technical difficulties before the show, but Al’s joke made us quickly forget it–and, kudos to the State Theater: I ordered my tickets online from their site and the day after the concert, the theater owner sent an email apologizing for the delay. Classy!).

Sarah had never seen him perform before, so she was pleasantly surprised by the set selection.  I was also surprised by the set selection because he pulled out a few older, more obscure tracks (“Frank’s 2000″ TV” (!), “You Don’t Love Me Any More”–complete with Al smashing a guitar!).  But he also dazzled with some new tracks from his forthcoming album.

The set opened with the polka medley (“Polka Face”).  This is the first polka medley that I didn’t know any (well almost any) of the sped up songs, but it’s always a treat to watch them play it live.  The one complaint with the show was that the sound in the theater wasn’t very good (which is surprising given that it’s an old theater) so it was hard to make out a lot of the words, especially to the new songs–and what’s Al without the lyrics?).  But his new song “I Perform This Way” (parody of Lady Gaga’s “I Was Born This Way”) was fantastic (Al was dressed up like a cartoon peacock).

Yes, costume changes.  One of the most entertaining things about Al’s shows is the costume changes.  For all of his big video hits, he comes out dressed like the video (the band does as well, although it’s a bit more subtle).  So, we get the Amish garb in “Amish Paradise,” the Michael Jackson red jacket for “Eat It”–(another surprise) and, my personal favorite, the fat suit from “Fat.”  One of the funniest costume changes was for a song that will sadly not be released on the album (but you can hear and download it here), “You’re Pitiful,” in which he wore multiple T-shirts (about 5) which all expressed some kind of funny comment (anyone know who was the face on one of the shirts?) and finally ended in a Spongebob Squarepants shirts and tutu.

So how does he do all of these costume changes? In between songs, when the band runs offstage, they play wonderful video clips.  Some of the clips are from his TV shows, some are faux documentaries, and the best are interviews that Al splices together (you can see a whole bunch here) which are hilarious and surprisingly mean-spirited.  I wish he would release them (and any other AlTv segments) on DVD, but I imagine that no one would ever give permission for that–check out the Kevin Federline one, for instance.  But they’re all pretty great.

The crowd was also totally into it (including the guy behind us with an Al wig (and a Harvey the Wonder Hamster).  And the age range was fantastic–from kids to grandparents.  My only hope is that my kids are old enough to come to a concert next time he comes around.

Oh and a brief word about his band.  He’s had the same four guys with him for years and years and years.  Rubén Valtierra is the newest member of the band and he’s been with them since 1991.  Jim West (guitar), Steve Jay (Bass) and Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz (drums) have been with Al since 1980.  They are tight as a drum, can play incredibly diverse styles at the drop of a hat (check out “CNR” which sounds exactly like The White Stripes) and they all seem to have a lot of fun on stage (see them jump in the air on “Fat” or the crazy vocal-only solo at the end of “Yoda”

–which I think is longer than ever and totally mind-blowing).

[READ: May 21, 2011] This is a Book

I recently read Martin’s “This is Me” in the New Yorker. “This is Me” is, along with about 100 other things in This is a Book.  I also heard Demetri Martin on NPR a few Sundays ago and he read a few short things from This is a Book.  And they were quite funny.

Indeed, the funny things in this book are really very very funny.  It seems to work that the shorter the item, the bigger the laugh.  Conversely there are a number of longer, extended jokes which just go on and on, like a Saturday Night Live sketch that just won’t end.  Those quickly lose their humorous value.  Fortunately  there aren’t too many of those in here.

What makes me smile a lot about the book are the jokes he plays with book conventions.  So the title page says “This is a book by Demetri Martin called This is a Book by Demetri Martin.”  Or the previous page:

Also by Demetri Martin


*Nothing yet.  This is his first book.

The book opens with “How to Read this Book.”

If you’re reading this sentence then you’ve pretty much got it.  Good job.  Just keep going the way you are.

I’m not going to spoil the rest of the book (or talk about each piece).  But I will mention some real highlights: (more…)

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I listened to this collection of (then) old and new SST artists almost nonstop the summer I bought this.  I remember my friend Al disliking it quite a bit–except for Hüsker Dü, of course.  (I wonder if he would change his mind about any of it now).

This LP was a kind of transition record from the standard bearers of SST (Black Flag, Hüsker Dü, The Minutemen) to the then new young bands (DC3, Angst, Gone).  The Allmusic review dismisses the disc out of hand, but I think that the disc has held up very well.  I didn’t follow SST records too closely in the 90s so I’m not sure what they were doing, but for whatever reason, most of the bands that the average listener hasn’t heard of were dropped (and sadly most of those discs are long out of print, some never released on CD at all–MP3s do appear to be available). The exception of course is any band that Greg Ginn played in (which is most of them, actually), which he of course has kept in print on SST.

SAINT VITUS-“Look Behind You” This song opens the disc and seems to introduce right away that SST is no longer just a punk label.  This is a very metal sound with a wah wahed and fuzzed out guitar all the way through.  It’s mixed in a weird way (which could be SST), which undermines the real heaviness and actually adds some cool effects.

DC3-“Theme From an Imaginary Western” as mentioned, an awesome track.

SWA-“Mystery Girl” a fuzzy distorted track.  It’s heavy, but not very heavy.

BLACK FLAG-“I Can See You” is one of those Black Flag tracks that is all about Greg Ginn’s weird guitar.  He plays a simple melody out of tune with crazy guitar solos over the top.  Rollins is on vocals which are mostly spoken here.  It’s a bizarre throwaway kind of song that I really like.

GONE-‘Watch the Tractor”  This is a wonderful instrumental.  High speed with a great riff that propels about half of the song.  The other half is a heavy kind of mosh that breaks up the proceedings nicely.  This is one of the few bands that no one has heard of from thee days of SST that actually have the album still in print (because Greg Ginn is on it).

WURM-“Death Ride” is not a very good song, but one which I always liked for its simplicity and stupidity. The screamed chorus is really catchy.

OVERKILL-“Over the Edge”  This is not the famous metal band Overkill, but a different metal band named Overkill who got shuffled aside by the (arguably) better, bigger one.  This is the only song I know from this Overkill (now known as Overkill L.A.) and I really like it.  It has a great riff and vocals like Lemmy.

SACCHARINE TRUST-“Emotions and Anatomy” is one of several odd, improvised tracks on this compilation. It seems like perhaps everyone is playing his own thing and the lyrics are some strange little rant.

PAINTED WILLIE-“The Big Time” is more raucous style of song, reminiscent of earlier SST recording.  The most interesting part comes at the end with the falsetto voices threatening to take over the song.  They play a kind of sloppy punk-lite that would likely be very popular today.

ANGST-“Just Me” After DC3 this is my second favorite unknown song on the album.  It has a great bass line with some angular guitars over the top.  It actually sounds a lot like later Hüsker Dü, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

MEAT PUPPETS-” I Just Want to Make Love To You” I’ve like the Meat Puppets for ages.  And this absurd cover of the blues song is one of the oddest songs this odd band has recorded.  The solo sounds like it comes from under a volcano.  It’s not a great song (and should probably be two minutes shorter), but it is kind of fun.

MINUTEMEN-“Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” The always awesome Minutemen engage us with this awesome cover of Van Halen’s “Aint Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.  In 1 minute they undermine all of the overblownedness of the original.  Check out the live version here.

HÜSKER DÜ-“Erase Today” This is simply fantastic.  This is an early punk song of theirs.  Catchy and fast and wonderful.

OCTOBER FACTION-“I Was Grotesque” Another weird improv piece.   It’s filled mostly with drums and strange rantings–kind of beatniky.  Here’s a live show from the band from 1984.

TOM TROCCOLI’S DOG-“Todo Para Mi”  This song has a cool riff. Although Troccoli’s voice is questionable at best.  It more or less devolves into a nonsense jam and is too long at 6 minutes.  It’s not a great way to end the album, but maybe it’s last for a reason.

[READ: March 21, 2011] “Who Am I?”

I have been hearing about Demetri Martin for a few years now.   How he’s the hot new comic. And yet I’ve never come across anything he’s done (even though I think Comedy Central repeated his shows practically on the hour when they first aired). So this short piece is my first exposure to him.  I’m going to assume it is not a fair representation of his comedy as he is normally a stand up and writing is not the same as stand up.  (That’s not to say it’s not good, just that it’s not his natural medium).

This was a short piece in the New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs section. It asks and answers the titular question “Who Am I?” (more…)

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